ewx: (photos)
We visited the Centre for Computing History in October. Although a bit haphazard in places there's a lot to look at and much of it was familiar.

[livejournal.com profile] naath playing Atic Atac. You run around a castle collecting keys (to get through doors) and the fragments of a quest object. I spent a lot of time playing this; I remember one of my brother and I finishing it though I can no longer remember which of us did so!

151017-151105.jpg

+2 )

Alas

Jan. 11th, 2016 09:22 pm
ewx: (penguin)
I reached for 1. Outside first, because of course I would. A concept album and I love the concept; aurally while I like the music, it’s the lyrics that I’m really here for. Some of my favourites:

(i) “Oh, Ramona - if there was only something between us
If there was only something between us
Other than our clothes


Something I have thought about a number of people over the years.

(ii) “Something is going to be horrid” ... BOOM CRASH HALLO SPACEBOY

A fantastic audio cut, at a key point in the story - if it was a film this would be the last time we saw Baby Grace Blue alive (nonlinearity permitting).

(iii) “Watching the young advancing all electric

A lovely image, and always makes me think of the explosion of personal electronics in the years since. Laptops, iPods, smartphones, Fitbits, and it’s not over yet.

(iv) “I started with no enemies of my own
[...]
I’ve been dreaming of sleep ... and ape. men. with. metal. parts.


Ramona gets the best lines, consistent with her role, and the delivery of the latter in particular is fantastic. The implication that someone might have to - or want to - borrow someone else’s enemies, until they could organise some of their own, is a marvellous one.

Rolling Stone wrote, admittedly among some more sensible things:

It’s too bad that Bowie and Eno don’t allow themselves the luxury of a straightforward pop song until the very end. You have to wade through 19 tracks of conceptual mischief to get to the simple melodic development and swelling chorus of “Strangers When We Meet.”

Fucking philistines. The conceptual mischief is the whole point. For a review from someone who actually got it, see the second review here (by Iai).
ewx: (penguin)
The Killing. Lengthy subtitled Danish police procedural, in which Copenhagen detective Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl) becomes obsessed with solving the horrific murder of Nanna Birk Larsen.

There are some fairly engaging characters here. Lund’s self-destructive obsession is very well portrayed, and Troels Hartmann (Lars Mikkelsen) political machinations under fire are enjoyable.

I guessed fairly early on who was the most likely killer although of course I wasn’t sure until late whether this was the kind of story where you see the perpetrator from the start or the police eventually track them down while they’re mostly off-screen.

The biggest problem, and it’s a recurring one, is characters who spend much too long being stupid, for instance inexplicably preferring to get tangled up in a murder investigation instead of than tell the police what they were really up to (which rarely turns out to be anything that the police would be very likely to care much about). In general, failure to communicate is an ever-present theme. I think they were aiming at with all this is “no-one is what they seem” but, to be effective, that needs a bit more than just clamming up for unconvincing reasons.

The series would also have benefitted from being a bit shorter, for instance by ditching one of the false leads, either completely or by having someone given the perfectly reasonable explanation for their superficially mysterious behavior up-front rather than taking a few episodes over it.

Top of the Lake. A more compact story set in a remote part of New Zealand. 12YO Tui Mitcham turns out to be unexpectedly pregnant and then ups and disappears. Detective Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss) investigates.

Griffin is not as self-destructive as Lund, but instead mostly struggles with her own history. Tui’s monstrous but complex father Matt (Peter Mullan) dominates every scene he’s in and is the most interesting character here, producing several surprises over the course of the series.

The final episode packs rather a lot of resolution into a small space, satisfyingly tying together a lot of threads but leading to a bit of a change of pace from its fairly relaxed predecessors.
ewx: (geek)

From time to time I and colleagues find ourselves extending some function in C in a way that requires extra arguments. Often this happens in a context where it's impractical to change all the callers (for instance, because some of them are in customer code) so the extended version of the function gets a new name and the original name just calls that with some default value of the new arguments.

For instance I might go from this:

int refine_glorp(glorp *g) {
  /* refinement */
}

…to this:

int refine_glorp(glorp *g) {
  return refine_glorp_ex(g, 0);
}

int refine_glorp_ex(glorp *g, int arg) {
  /* extended refinement, based on arg */
}

Is there a well-known name for this transformation?

A colleague who did this a week or so ago started out with 'decapitation' but changed his mind to 'recapitation' on the grounds that he was really adding a second head to the function rather than removing one. But neither of us knew if there was already a name for this.

ewx: (penguin)

A Savage War of Peace, Alistair Horne, ISBN 978-1-447-23343-5

This is an account of the Algerian War of Independence.

It covers the background quickly: French colonization in the 19th century (an attempt to shore up the Bourbon monarchy, which did not really work), the establishment of the Pieds Noirs (i.e. European-origin colonists, not all French by any means), and early hints of trouble (at least some of it recognized, but never meaningfully acted upon).

Having set the scene it really gets going in 1945 with the Sétif massacre, with around 100 Europeans killed and shortly afterwards many thousands of Muslims being killed in official and unofficial retaliation. As well as being an appalling crime this was a serious mistake, being the event that radicalized many of the future leaders of the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), the key resistance organization.

The FLN’s initial strikes were not particularly effective, but got the attention of the French state and even generated some recognition at high levels that reform and negotiation were required - but (in fact despite several attempts) significant reform was never actually delivered, not least due to persistent Pied Noir obduracy. For a long time nor was negotiation, partly for the same reason (i.e. the political impossibility of being seen to negotiate) but also due to the difficulty of identify a negotiating counterparty. The latter seems to have been partly a result of the colonial strategy of disrupting rather than co-opting the local elite.

Instead the response was to send in the troops. The FLN’s rapid and effective adoption of asymmetric warfare (maquis tactics in the countryside and bombings in the cities) saved them from complete destruction but the military part of the story is, ultimately, one of gradually increasing French success, and brutal tactics on both sides (with the French military tactics often acting as recruiting adverts for the FLN - “The stupid bastards are winning the war for us”). The FLN managed to find a degree of sanctuary in recently independent Tunisia (whose initially good relations with France were repeatedly degraded by ill-considered French military action) but weren’t able to exploit it other than tying down a lot of French troops in the form of a highly effective border force.

The result was a disastrous situation for France. The army felt they were doing the politicians’ dirty work, but that the politicians did not have their backs; a problem compounded by France record of repeated military humiliation (in WWII, in Indo-China, at Suez) - the army wanted to win something and thought (quite possibly correctly, in narrowly military terms) that they could do it in Algeria. In Paris meanwhile politics fell deeper and deeper into crisis, with independence politically impossible but no other realistic political solutions on offer and no government able to stay in power for long in any case. Moreover the combination of these two factors had led to the armed forces developing a politically unchallenged habit of independent action.

The result in May 1958 was a military revolt, with General Jacques Massu and others seizing power in Algeria, capturing Corsica, and preparing to take Paris. Their condition was that Charles de Gaulle must return to power, and in this sense, they got what they wanted.

Having taken the reins, however, de Gaulle was faced with much the same difficulties as his predecessors: the military campaign would probably work on its own terms but will not actually solve anything - it would be a permanent occupation, at considerable financial and moral cost.  However, despite the hastily papered-over irregularity of his accession, he was equipped with a considerably stronger mandate to do something about it. In this sense, Massu and his allies did not get what they wanted, but exactly the opposite. By 1961 this had lead to a second military revolt, but this one failed dismally, and subsequently the remains of the war party resorted to the same terrorist methods under the name Organisation de l'Armée Secrète (OAS), in both Algeria and France, that their FLN opponents had long practiced. Nor did it stop there: the Gaullist paramilitaries of the Mouvement pour la Communauté (MPC) were in the habit of blowing up cafés frequented by members of the OAS. (The Day Of The Jackal is fiction, but the OAS really did try to kill de Gaulle).

Ultimately de Gaulle conceded enough about the future disposition of Algeria for negotiations to start making real progress, leading to the Évian Accords concluding the war in 1962. In principle he had been attempting to secure some kind of life for the Pieds Noirs in Algeria after independence; what happened in practice was that hundreds of thousands of them emigrated. He also failed to secure any practical protection for the Harkis, natives who had fought for the French and were subsequently treated exceptionally badly by the country’s new rulers.

History has not treated independent Algeria well. Its first independent government was quickly replaced by military dictatorship. It spend much of the 1990s in civil war.

Why was the conflict so intractable for so long? Many among the French governing elite understood that the game was up, but the persistent weakness and instability of French governments prior to 1958 meant they were unable to act on this. The Pieds Noirs and their military and nationalist allies, as well as being the immediate cause of that instability, were convinced they could and should win, although rarely within any kind of coherent idea of what the outcome should look like - the most clear-headed saw South Africa as their model, but others imagined even into the 1960s that they could reach some kind of accommodation with the Muslim population, which over the course of the previous decade had gone from optimism to fantasy. Finally, the FLN also thought they could and should win, but were actually right: they knew how to use their enemy’s strength against them, by provoking them into ever more brutal measures. Essentially they discovered how to make victory - or even a frozen conflict - too painful for France, and then they just had to wait until France broke, at which point they achieved their goal of total independence.

The reason I really bought this book, though, was to learn more about the May 1958 crisis.

de Gaulle does not (at least in Horne’s account) seem to have been involved with the planning and initiation of the coup. Rather he seems to have been ‘waiting for the call’ - but there is no clear indication that he was expecting to come from the army rather than, say, popular demand or a political party. However, he made himself complicit with Massu’s revolt both by announcing once it was underway that he was ready to assume power, and (in response to the last gap of parliamentary resistance) remarking “I shall have no alternative but to let you have it out with the paratroops”.

In particular, after reading books by Javier Cercas and Serhii Plokhy, I wanted to know how the coup compared with the failed coups in Spain and the USSR in the second half of the twentieth century.

In Spain, the golpistas perceived a country in serious trouble, just as France was in 1958, and General Armada planned to follow in de Gaulle’s footsteps by using military pressure to ensure he won a vote. But unlike the French example, where President Coty and the National Assembly conceded, Armada was unable to constitutionalize the coup, due to the failure to successfully co-opt the Spanish monarchy; whether he could have won a vote in the Cortes is unknown. And while 1980s Spain did have some serious problems, the country was in an ongoing process of reform; in contrast France in 1958 was demonstrably not coping and there did not seem to be any reason to think matters would improve - there was no light at the end of the tunnel and no realistic alternative to de Gaulle to rally opposition.

In the Soviet Union the country was also in a bad way - it had run out of money, had already lost territory and key regional elites were agitating for independence. Indeed the worst fears of the coup plotters were ultimately realized: the USSR destroyed itself from within not long after they had been defeated. While their actions no doubt contributed to this, the internal destructive processes were already well underway and I don’t think it’s controversial to say the outcome would have been essentially the same.
ewx: (penguin)

(Caveat: it’s a while since I’ve read most of these so they aren’t all very fresh in my mind.) Underlining marks the best of the bunch.

From the 2015 Hugos packet:

Ms Marvel #1. A Muslim girl in the US gains super powers, and spends most of the book learning to cope, although some longer-term plot starts to pick up towards the end of this volume. Think Vimanarama but more American. Enjoyable.

Rat Queens #1. Four female mercenaries in a D&D setting. Praised as “realistic-looking female characters” and I guess that’s true by comic standards (i.e. discounting pointy ears etc). Well-drawn, some nice lines, reasonably engaging plot. Would probably read more (I’d have to re-read volume one to remember what was going on).

Saga #3. Continues the story. If you liked #1 and #2 (the latter of which I said a little about last year) you’ll probably like this.

Sex Criminals #1. Suzie discovers that time freezes when she orgasms, and as luck would have it meets Jon who has the same unusual power. Inevitably they team up and fight commit crimes. Enormously funny and I will be reading more.

Via Humble Bundle:

Alone Forever. 100 pages of mostly amusing ?autobiographical anecdotes about being single.

Bone #1. Weird little creatures who look like this gradually integrate with cute talking animals ... and find themselves caught up in obscure and rather darker than the setting would have suggested. I’ll be reading more.

The CBLDF Presents: Liberty. Huge collection of shorts, mostly touching on censorship and opposition to it. Mixed quality but fun overall.

Crime Does Not Pay #22-25. A 1940s collection of sensationalized accounts of crimes. Massively popular in its days, which was before a culture of self-censorship set in during the 1950s.

ElfQuest: The Final Quest. Elves doing nothing I found remotely interesting, I got bored and read something else instead.

Essex County. Small boy who likes comics grows up in rural Canada. I’m afraid I got bored of this one too.

Locke And Key. A family loses its father and, on returning to the ancestral home, becomes embroiled in struggle with an evil spirit, their principal weapons being a collection of magical keys unlocking a variety of capabilities for their users. There’s a lot in here and I couldn’t put it down.

Lost Dogs. Roughly-drawn tragedy. I made it to the end but I don’t think it was worth it.

Maggie The Mechanic (Love and Rockets). A vaguely futuristic setting provides the backdrop for meandering relationships between a collection of characters slightly too large for me to remember entirely clearly at this distance. Reminded me of Strangers In Paradise in many ways (not just the artwork).

Heartbreak Soup (Love and Rockets). Similar kind of idea but with an initially more claustrophobic and down-to-earth setting of a Latin American village.

The Madame Paul Affair. Chaotic goings on in a Montreal apartment block. It didn’t grab me.

March #1-2. Account of the US Civil Rights Movement as seen from the inside. Hard work at times but very interesting.

Morning Glories #1. Superficially an exclusive school but in fact the staff are torturing and murdering the students, among others. Might be tempted to read more of it sometime, not sure.

Mouse Guard. Sword-wielding talking mouse on a quest. I can’t really remember anything about this.

Parker #1-4. Career criminal repeatedly finds himself in ever bigger holes due to incompetence and/or betrayal by his associates. I remember this being fun to read.

Revival #1. The dead come back to life and cause all sorts of trouble. I don’t remember much about this but skimming it just is encouraging me to revisit it at some point.

Sidescrollers. A bunch of kids who mostly like playing video games get into scrapes. Fun though not exactly heavyweight plot. Wonderfully characterful greyscale artwork.

The Boys #5. Superpowered hit squad whose job it is to deal bloodily with the worst excess of the world’s superhero population, who seem to be at best criminally reckless. I think I probably suffered a bit from coming in at the fifth volume, but it was good enough that I’ll probably get hold of #1 at some point.

The Frank Book. Weird ?dog creature encounters weird things in a weird world. Quite nicely drawn but I got bored relatively early on.

The Little Man. Random ?autobiographical strips. I didn’t find it very interesting.

We Can Fix It. Jess Fink uses a time machine to revisit her past and generally interfere. A lot of fun.

Wytches #1. Villagers sacrifice people to dark forces in return for all the usual gifts. The victims fight back. I found some of the artwork a bit hard to follow in places but the story was a good one.

ewx: (penguin)

…and some post-holiday reading, as it happens.


The Last Light Of The Sun and The Lions Of Al-Rassan (Guy Gavriel Kay). I thought I’d reviewed some of his other books in this forum but I can’t find any evidence of that. GGK’s favorite strategy is to take a more or less well known historical era and its actors, lightly rename them, add a bit of magic, and then write a compelling story in the resulting setting. In this case we are mostly dealing with Viking era England, with Alfred the Great renamed Athelbert and the Vikings renamed Erlings in the former, and a renamed Spain during the reconquista in the latter, with the most famous of the character templates being El Cid. I got on well with both books, which meditate in various ways upon the passing of ages. Specifically, in the former, the subject is the end of a heroic age and the dawn of powerful medieval states, with the arbitrariness and brutality of the violence of the former contrasted with the inexorability and totality of the latter. The latter concerns the existential conflict between a sophisticated and cosmopolitan society with a more primitive but more vigorous one, to a great extent making the same sort of contrast.

Tigana and A Song For Arbonne (also Guy Gavriel Kay) have a slightly weaker connection with real-world history, though both take inspiration from past cultures in their settings. It seems to me that Tigana is really about how the weak can hope to fight the powerful and monstrous: direct open confrontation in force is impossible, so the indirect, covert and personal must be employed instead. A Song For Arbonne covers some of the same territory as The Lions of Al-Rassan, really, but draws quite different and ultimately more hopeful conclusions.

Cider With Rosie (Laurie Lee). The author recounts his Gloucestershire childhood, early in the C20th. Beautifully written, engaging characters, interesting events: it’s completely obvious why it’s considered a classic.

The Manifesto On How To Be Interesting (Holly Bourne). Teenage girl struggles with friendship, popularity and love at school, packing in a multitude of (some of them perennially) topical misadventures. Entertaining.

The Virgin Suicides (Jeffrey Eugenides). Slightly unusual narrative structure fails to rescue a story that I found essentially dull. But not half as offputting as…

The Sparrow (Mary Doria Russell). Jesuits In Space sounds superficially promising, though the idea of a bunch of friends deciding one night to mount the first manned interstellar mission and succeeding made me laugh in disbelief. Putting that aside, however, the flashback structure means that the body horror aspects that might otherwise have been localized to a disaster towards the end of the book instead relentlessly impinge upon the reader throughout. I couldn’t finish it.

The Shell Collector (Hugh Howey). A bit of a departure for Howie. The post-apocalyptic scenario is familiar, albeit that it’s a more realistic and less drastic one than usual. But rather than the usual engineering-fiction romp that he does so well this is actually a straightforward love story. More strikingly still he doesn’t massacre enormous numbers of his characters, which I can only imagine must have been a wrench. Joking aside I got on pretty well with this, while the science-fictional element may be there just to support the primary romantic plot it’s still nicely done and the side-character interactions are enjoyable.

Also recently Ancillary Mercy (Ann Leckie) but (i) I suspect people are still hoping to avoid spoilers just now and (ii) I don’t think 2145 on a Sunday night is a time at which I can do justice to it. So maybe another time.

ewx: (photos)

We went on holiday to Scandinavia in August. Some of the highlights…

Copenhagen:

  • Photos.
  • Viking ship museum at Roskilde (about 20m on the train from Copenhagen). Ancient boats rescued from the bottom of a fjord, an opportunity to chop things, and rowing a reconstructed boat. http://www.vikingeskibsmuseet.dk/en/
  • Wandering around Kastellet in the sun and the Tivoli on a warm evening.
  • The Nordic Bronze Age. I was already well aware of the Trundholm Sun Chariot but hadn’t realised (with due deference to taphonomic bias) quite how rich was the material culture of that time and place.
  • Hire bikes with built in navigation. http://bycyklen.dk/en/

Stockholm:

  • Photos.
  • The Vasa. It’s big and very well preserved. If your model of early modern ships recovered from the sea is the Mary Rose then you have a treat in store. http://www.vasamuseet.se/en/
  • Lemurs. Who doesn’t like lemurs? If you know the answer, I don’t want to know.
  • Wandering around Skansen and Djurgården.

Both:

  • The public transport worked well.
  • Canal tours. Good decision in both cities.
  • My usual photographic idées fixes were well served, as you can probably tell…
  • Food. We ate at a lot of excellent restaurants, although the passage of time means it’s probably beyond me to review them individually now.
  • People. Friendly and with only one exception that I can remember spoke excellent English.
ewx: (penguin)
Ad-blocking in web browsers has been going on for years, but it’s generating more press lately because Apple have started doing it. (Possibly also it’s reached sufficient levels that it’s starting to hurt). I have very little sympathy for the organizations impacted by this for a number of reasons, but in particular:

  1. Online adverts represent a serious threat vector. Breaking into a obscure blog and using that to server malware only infects that blog’s readership; breaking into an ad server affects the readership of everything that uses that ad network. This isn't a hypothetical concern; here’s a recent example (edit: here’s another) (edit: another, with a bonus of some social engineering to get users to make themselves vulnerable). If I asked an ad network to indemnify me against any losses resulting from permitting them to access my computer, what sort of response do you think I might receive?

  2. Ad-blockers do indeed disrupt the business model of many websites, and this may yet be fatal for large numbers of them (or at least a contributing factor in their demise). But so what? The web has already thoroughly disrupted many existing business models[1], and is continuing to do so; if ad-blockers do kill a bunch of websites then really we’re just seeing another round of the same thing.

[1] although to my surprise I saw an apparently surviving video rental store on Saturday morning.
ewx: (penguin)
Denmark-Germany rail links suspended. We were on that route, taking the ferry at Rødby, not long ago, so I guess we got out of Denmark just in time!
What I don't understand is why the Danes are trying to stop them leaving. Usually I consider it a very bad sign when a government attempts to stop mass departure.

Tryfan

Aug. 9th, 2015 05:56 pm
ewx: (photos)
S + Cannon

Goats hiding from the wet under the Cannon on the way up. More of the goats.

More photos )

More pictures from Sunday.

Mynydd Twr

Aug. 9th, 2015 01:29 pm
ewx: (climbing)


Leading means taking the rope up and inserting gear into the rock. In the event of a fall (which didn't happen) the facts that the rope goes through the gear and S is at the bottom controlling the rope would limit how far N could fall.

S also climbed between us (explaining why the rope is different in the video below) but I didn't record that.

Another video, plus photos )

More pictures.

Mountains

Aug. 2nd, 2015 07:26 pm
ewx: (penguin)
✓ Holyhead
✓ Tryfan
ewx: (penguin)
I found http://www.bbcactivelanguages.com/OurProducts/Italian/ProductViewer.aspx?ISBN=9781406679236 pretty good for learning tourist Italian a few years ago. But we're going to Scandinavia next and there isn't a direct equivalent in the same range. Does anyone have any recommendations for learning a little tourist-level Danish and/or Swedish?
ewx: (photos)
150608-122949.jpg

I've been reading The Nature Of Paleolithic Art lately, and this image, seen while out on my lunch break, reminds me of a practice used in cave paintings: the artist identified a natural formation (a rock, say, or a stalactite) which recalled some part of (usually) an animal, and elaborated upon that. Spray painting with a stencil, very possibly used here for the silhouette, is also an ancient technique - they put their hands on a wall and sprayed ochre from their mouths, creating outline handprints.
The combination of ancient techniques with both the physical realization and iconography of modern communication technology is a nice contrast.
ewx: (penguin)

The Anatomy of a Moment, Javier Cercas, 978-1-4088-2210-4

Some time ago I read The Battle for Spain by Anthony Beevor, an account of the Spanish civil war leading to the triumph of Franco. I don’t think I wrote a review but I did post a choice quote.The eventual sequel to that conflict was the Spanish transition to democracy after Franco’s death. I was vaguely aware that he’d been succeeded by Juan Carlos as King of Spain, who had reintroduced democracy, and that there’s been a failed military coup attempt that the King had had some hand in putting down.

Of course, it was a lot more complicated than that.

So firstly, for me Javier Circas’s book shed some light upon the events, their background, and the personalities involved. By the time of the coup the Spanish democracy had been underway for long enough that the King’s original choice of Prime Minister, Adolfo Suaréz, had spent all his political capital and more. The economy was in trouble; ETA terrorism was out of control; the communists were legal again; social reform was underway; it was now obvious that Suaréz had not just reformed Francoism but totally abolished it (which was why he’d been appointed). Many of the country’s problems hurt everybody but the conservative establishment felt particularly aggrieved (and with ETA’s campaign principally impacting the security forces, this wasn’t entirely sour grapes).

Talk of a coup, “a hand on the rudder,” was in the air from all sides, even from people who ought to have known better. Everyone wanted Suaréz gone, but the golpistas wanted a change of direction too. In the event they got what the former without a coup - Suaréz resigned - but they did not get the latter and that is why his resignation did not prevent the coup: and so as the deputies in the Cortes voted on his replacement they were interrupted by an armed incursion. You can watch it on Youtube.

Circas analyzes who was behind the coup. The key figure is General Armada (and for an English reader it’s hard to imagine a better name for Spanish villain), who wanted to put himself in charge but nevertheless maintain constitutional appearances by winning a vote in the Cortes, presenting himself as a compromise. This was ultimately revealed to be a fantasy by the subsequent King’s broadcast against the coup, though as Circas points out, had he been more successful the broadcast may have been re-interpreted as a condemnation of the initial violent incursion rather than the entire project of the coup.

The brains of the operation is also the most mysterious and most colorfully described character, intelligence officer José Luis Cortina, described as a “twelve-faced character” and, even more remarkably, a Marxist-Falangist. Cercas is sure that he supported the coup at its inception, but equally sure that he opposed once the writing was on the wall. (Ultimately he escaped conviction.)

The man on the ground was Lieutenant Colonel Tejero, who took over the Cortes. Between him and Armada was a dangerous difference in expectations: Tejero’s goal was the re-introduction of military rule. He was supposed to seize the Cortes peacefully - but in the event sent bullets flying, which in Cercas’s analysis gave what had been intended as a “soft coup” the unavoidable appearance of a “hard coup”, one of the first things that went wrong.

This is the moment that Cercas relentlessly anatomizes. When the guns open up, most of the deputies in the Cortes dives to the floor. But Suárez sits impassive, along with Santiago Carrillo (the communist leader, compromising from left to establish Spanish democracy) and Suárez’s deputy General Gutiérrez Mellado (compromising from inside the army, to the same ends), before turning to protest. This refusal to submit to the attack is revisited again and again through the book and analyzed from every angle.

Ultimately Armada’s attempts to constitutionalize the coup by invoking the monarch are frustrated by the King himself: the King refuses to talk to him and ultimately broadcasts on the television against the coup. Armada’s only remaining avenue is to attempt to be the hero by negotiating with Tejero - but this founders on the differences in the two men’s goals and on Tejero’s unwillingness to sacrifice himself to Armada’s soft coup.

Of course, it was a lot more complicated than that.

If you want to know more than I can recommend reading the book. It’s a colorful and entertaining account of a critical moment in Spanish history, written in a style quite unlike any work of history that I can bring to mind, endlessly questioning itself and second-guessing itself and third-guessing itself, and the actors, and the evidence, and the events, within every other sentence. The author has brought a novelist's sensibility to a work of historical analysis and this shines through in Anne McLean’s translation.

ewx: (penguin)
I spent several hours telling yesterday.
  • The Conservative ground game was a shambles. Early in my morning session the Conservative teller started fretting about his replacement not having shown up; eventually he abandoned his post for a while to retrieve his wife who’d also been telling elsewhere. The story was the same in the afternoon except the gentleman concerned (who had come from south London to help out) didn't have his own transport and had been stuck there all afternoon.
  • Labour were the most in evidence on the streets locally, but (at least based on my own experience) the Lib Dems were most efficient at turning up on time to relieve tellers.
  • Tellers from other parties make good “single-serving friends”. The morning’s Conservative teller had been around the world a bit and was interested to chat to.
  • The polling station staff wouldn't let us into the lobby (unlike in previous years; I think they had a broader interpretation of which bit of the building was technically the polling station). Lots of voters remarked on this sympathetically (to us), especially when it was raining!

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